Category Archives: teen

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Young MozartPosted by Elizabeth Devereux


In honor of what would be Mozart’s 257th birthday, I’d like to share a very silly video of Bobby McFerrin and a comedic Polish string quartet called Grupa MoCarta enjoying Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik in many new transformations…



Philadelphia All-City Orchestra to be conducted by Yannick!

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

This weekend high school musicians from across the Philadelphia region who are playing in All-City Orchestra will rehearse with the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who’s proven somewhat of a sensation to Philadelphia audiences, full of energy and verve enough to get even Philadelphia Orchestra audience members excited about their new orchestra conductor.  All-City Orchestra will rehearse portions of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, which seems to be a perfect match for Yannick’s vivacity.  This weekend’s rehearsal is in preparation for the All-City Orchestra Concert on March 4th, 2013, which Yannick will also conduct.

Lucky high-schoolers, enjoy!


This weekend’s rehearsal comes days after Yannick’s appearance at Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert, at which the Philadelphia Orchestra was joined by the All-City Choir, Jeri Lynne Johnson of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, violinist Elena Urioste, and narrator Charlotte Blake Alston.

I love hearing about a city’s music director performing outside of the Kimmel Center and Center City, and conducting the city’s young, talented musicians!  It’s the cynic in me that even has this thought: I hope Yannick’s community involvement this year isn’t just honeymoon behavior but is here to stay…

“Why Arts Education Is Crucial”: Edutopia article by Fran Smith

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

I work in a program in Philadelphia, Play On, Philly!, which lets me participate on a daily basis in the positive impact that a strong arts program can have on a child’s social and academic development.  Here is an Edutopia article by Fran Smith which discusses in-depth, and with sound statistical support, what I see happening with my students day to day at Play On Philly:

Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best.



The Edutopia website is an amazing, innovative resource for those interested in the world of education.   One of my favorite series on the Edutopia website is their

“Schools That Work”

series, which has videos such as this one, about a school reform effort in Germany.

Happy Basketball Season, and DID YOU KNOW…

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

…that Kobe Bryant plays the piano??

Kobe piano

As he tweeted after a 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls, playing piano (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata) calms him down when he reaches his breaking point.

Happy Birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven!


Posted by Elizabeth Devereux





One of my most memorable experiences so far as a violin teacher is the first time I played Beethoven for a classroom full of 3-6 year-olds.  It was in my first year of teaching private violin lessons full-time, and I taught one Suzuki group class of beginner violinists.  Each month I chose a composer whose birthday fell in that month to celebrate; we would listen to their music, read about them, and share what we thought of them and their music.  My goal was to get these young violinists to care about what they heard, not necessarily to get them to like what they heard.  Beethoven, though, made it easy for them to both care about and like the music.

Beethoven was born on either the 15th or 16th of this month in the year 1770.  On the first Thursday…

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“Polly want a cracker! Polly want a cra”–AVOID TURNING VIOLIN PRACTICE INTO PARROTING! Effective Violin Practice (Part 2)

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

Repetition is necessary to learning any skill well.  We learn how to speak our mother tongue by repeating what we hear around us over and over in infancy; we learn to crawl, walk, run, ride a bike by making repeated efforts (and repeated failures!) to do so.  Rote learning–memorizing through repetition–can help us internalize our multiplication tables, basic arithmetic, the periodic table, Latin noun declensions, and, in music, the circle of fifths and the order of sharps and flats.

Our brains are such sponges before we hit the age of 12 or 13 that we should be sure to use our spongey brains to sop up helpful info!  [I still remember the pledge of allegiance to the flag and Longfellow’s poem, the Ride of Paul Revere, even though we memorized those in my 1st grade class and I haven’t recited them regularly since that year!  The utility of these two could be called into question, of course, since I still struggle to recite my 7’s and 9’s of the times tables…]

While rote memorization is a helpful, and I would argue necessary, component of learning almost any skill well, IT IS ONLY ONE COMPONENT OF LEARNING!  We must be sure that we do not go on autopilot in our learning, whether it’s while reading a novel, studying our chemistry, or practicing our violin!

The most important part of repeating a measure or two of difficult music many times is STAYING AWARE while we repeat the measure.  

If you are making a slight mistake each time you repeat the measure, then you are practicing the mistake, rather than practicing the corrected version of the mistake!  Similarly, if you make the same mistake two times in a row, then it will likely take at least twice as many times (that’s AT LEAST 4 times for a mistake made 2X in a row, AT LEAST 8 times for a mistake made 4X in a row…) of playing the spot correctly to ensure that you avoid making the mistake in the future!  That starts adding up to a lot of time, if you’re not practicing carefully.

STAY AWARE, my musician friends, and repeat away!  Avoid turning into a musical parrot (especially a masochistic musical parrot)…

And, please, sometimes give yourself a break from repeating the hardest stuff possible, and repeat some of the easy stuff that you play beautifully and with ease…

WOW, it’s fun to be able to play something well, isn’t it? 

Happy Birthday, Dmitri Shostakovich!

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

On this day 106 years ago, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg, Russia…and SO much has been written about his life and his politics, that I’ll let you do your own research about all of that, and make up your own mind about the hot topic among Shostakovich music historians.






Instead, here I’d like to tell you about my own introduction to Shostakovich, and why every angsty teenager, every adult who’s ever felt angry or despondent, and every child who has to get up and dance whenever they hear energetic music…



I remember being 14 years old and hearing Shostakovich’s music for the first time: I was at a summer music festival called Eastern Music Festival.  EMF had two student orchestras which rehearsed six times during the week before performing in concert on the weekends.  It was the other student orchestra, the one I wasn’t playing in that week, which was performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.  All of the students in the “Shosty 5” orchestra suddenly went around as if they had been fortuitously admitted into an exclusive and really cool club.  At the age of 14, I almost never wanted to part of any cool clubs, because as soon as anything became “cool” or large enough to be a club, I found that the strong non-conformist inside of me–especially strong in my teenage years–quickly became wary and ready to run the opposite direction of “cool”.  BUT the Shosty 5 club was a different story.  I began sneaking into the other orchestra’s rehearsals during our breaks, and the Friday night concert, for all of the inevitable student orchestra faults, was a life-changing experience.


…and I haven’t been able to remove the hook since.

And it is a HOOK–not a Brahmsian blanket, not a pair of Mozartian dance shoes, not a Haydnian garden stroll–a HOOK.  Shostakovich’s music catches and tugs.

Give a listen and see if you can extract the hook afterwards…make sure you listen past 16:18 (or skip there, no one will know!) before you let me know about that hook extraction: